Greg Kesich’s column “New Augusta hospital shows flaws in how we pay for health care” (Oct. 2) touches the central issue of the health care discussion. While “who pays?” captures national headlines, “how much is paid?” is equally important.

Steven Brill’s major article in Time Magazine on March 4 (“Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us”) provided a template for examining how hospitals are funded and what the incentives are for the hospitals’ investments.

Hospitals are encouraged to buy equipment that requires extensive billing and usage to justify. Is it possible that some procedures could be streamlined?

I would appreciate a view of the major hospital finances for Maine’s “nonprofit” hospitals, including chargemaster (before discounts) billing rates and executive compensation. I am equally interested in clearly understanding the real effect of Anthem and Maine Medical Center’s proposal for changing areas of coverage.

I would like to know more about the agreements on discounted billing charges between hospitals and major insurance providers.

Congratulations on the paper’s investigative work of the past. Please continue the good work.

Robert Libby

Chebeague Island 

All Mainers should take texting-driving pledge

When I first began driving, there were no cellphones. We were taught to keep our eyes on the road and pledged to never drink and drive.

While these lessons are important today, drivers now have even more to think about. As nearly nine in 10 Americans now have cellphones, we must remind each other to take our own pledge to not text and drive.

The statistics on distracted driving are alarming – texting while driving causes one in four accidents annually. It’s a national epidemic that we’re not immune to in Maine, as tragic accidents involving texting and driving remain in the news.

In Maine, texting while driving has been illegal for more than two years and carries with it a $250 fine and adds two points to the offender’s license. Unfortunately, we need to do more than just enforce the law – we need to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of distracted driving.

Nationwide, a program called “It Can Wait” is aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. It recently sponsored a national “Drive for Pledges” day and people across Maine signed a pledge to not text and drive. Take the pledge at www.itcanwait.com, and share it with your loved ones. By educating each other, we can prevent these tragedies.

Matt Dunlap

Maine secretary of state

Augusta

Supporters of the tea party deserve place of their own

Since it’s apparent that Republicans, also known as the tea party, are bent on destroying my country, here’s a suggestion: Why don’t they leave and start a country of their own somewhere, hopefully in a galaxy far, far away? There, they would have the following benefits they crave:

No one would pay any taxes.

Health care would be given only to those with up-front cash.

The elderly and the poor would be put out to pasture.

No one would pay any taxes.

One religion would fit all – or else.

Only those of of a certain hue would be allowed to vote.

Every child would receive a free Glock at birth.

Public schools would be eliminated.

No one would pay any taxes.

My brother didn’t go ashore on D-Day, and I didn’t endure my time in Korea, to see my country being held hostage by a bunch of mean-spirited, history-ignorant, ultra-right wing zealots.

So I do hope they will take my suggestion to heart, and take their infantile destructive tendencies with them.

Don Federman

Portland 

Crime reduces luster of New England’s crown jewel

I celebrated my nuptials on a gorgeous fall day here in Maine on Sept. 28. We had out-of-town guests who came from as far away as New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and New York.

Unfortunately, one of our guests was victimized when her car was broken into Sept. 27 in the West End of Portland. This particular guest is a single mom and could not afford airfare to Maine from North Carolina – she had driven more than 1,200 miles with her 13-year-old daughter to be in my wedding.

The trunk of my 74-year-old mother’s rental car was tampered with around 8:30 p.m. Sept. 29, right in the Old Port, as my new husband and I watched the offender scamper off, having been spotted. We later found out there had also been three reported vehicle break-ins in the West End on Sept. 26.

Now, I realize we have a drug problem in this city. Several years ago, I served on the grand jury and got a real understanding of how much crime is committed to that drug problem. And I truly believe our police department is doing a good job.

But my frustration, anger and sadness over these unfortunate events over my wedding weekend have left a lot to be desired about a city I usually tout as New England’s crown jewel.

With the leaf-peeper season upon us, I wish to welcome all of the excited tourists but with this service announcement: Don’t leave anything in your cars overnight (and please lock them!); see if the rental car you get comes equipped with a surveillance camera, and you may want to bring a bodyguard – depending on how much money you plan on spending in our fair city.

With any hope, my friend – who drove back to North Carolina with plastic wrap buzzing in her ear where a window used to be – will find it in her heart to someday return.

Mary Katherine Spain

Portland